LEON H. CHARNEY passed away this week, before Erev Purim in New York City. He was a behind the scenes “spy for peace” who helped President Jimmy Carter push forward on the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt; and he helped Israeli PM Golda Meir free Jews from the Soviet Union. The 77 year old was a self-made billionaire, and part time cantor, where he could be heard many times at the Garment Center Synagogue in midtown Manhattan. He entered real estate after a successful entertainment law career and his government service. Mr. Charney was principled. He ran for the New York State Assembly at the age of 27 but lost. He helped lead a campaign for NYC Mayor by Herman D. Farrell’s in 1985, but when Farrell accepted the support of the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who had angered many with his anti-Jewish comments, Mr. Charney quit the campaign in protest. I used to watch him on his self-produced cable-access-like public affairs talk show, The Leon Charney Report. He would.. can I say lethargically… interview mostly Israel-focused politicians, entertainers, and leaders. He received a New York Emmy Award for a documentary on the peace accords in 2014; and once he tried to buy the New York Post. Charney donated millions to NYU Langone Hospital’s cardiac care unit (over $15 million), Florida Atlantic University, and the University of Haifa (over $100 million). He authored four books; and in 2006, I once attended the book launch for his publication on the “kaddish.” Had I known he was a billionaire, I would have asked for a complimentary copy. The funeral will take place in Israel on Friday 15th of Adar Bet, March 25, 2016 at 12:00pm at the Raanar Kfar Naham Cemetery. Sitting Shiva at the Charney Family Apartment Room 1545, Hilton Hotel, 205 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv.I would like to tell you about HILARY PUTNAM, a philosopher who passed away at the age of 89. He said that, “any philosopher that an be put in a nutshell belongs in one.” I really never understood his ideas about epistemological externalism, functionalism, and the idea that the words’ meanings depend on expertise — too deep for me. In one thought experiment, he told of two identical twins, each on separate planets. One talked about water, which on Earth was H2O. The other talked of water, but on his planet it was made of other elements. Therefore, the meaning of language (words) is not only about what is intended. At Harvard, he would lecture from the classroom seats instead of the podium. At one time, he lived on a commune; and he – like his father – tried to organize workers for communism. In another discussion, Putnam taught that one could say elm tree and not need to know how it differs from pine or beech trees, as long as Botanists (have the expertise to) know. In later adulthood, he gave up communism, and he and his wife Ruth chose to pursue the Judaism of their ancestors. At 68, he studied to become a bar mitzvah, and in 2008, he authored, “Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life: Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Wittgenstein
While PUTNAM was known for Harvard, GEOFFREY H. HARTMAN, was known for Yale. HARTMAN, 86, was not only a scholar but he was a “Sterling” professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at Yale, and known as one of the famed deconstructionist Yale School literature scholars, along with Harold Bloom and Paul de Man. (Speaking of Paul de Man, it was Hartman who wrote an essay in The New Republic about him in 1988 which revealed de Man’s collaboration with Nazi publications during WWII.) He was born in Frankfurt in 1929, and, at the age of ten, he was among the children evacuated to England from Germany as part of a Kindertransport. He was placed at the very isolated estate belonging to James de Rothschild. Coming to the USA after the war and rejoining his mother in New York City, he enrolled in college and received a PhD by the age of 25 from Yale. Hartman was one of the founder’s of Yale’s Judaic Studies program and the first director of the school’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, which now holds over 4,000 interviews.
ANITA BROOKNER was the Booker Prize winning literary master of unfulfilled people who pined for the unlived life, and the turtles who end up beating the hare. Many of her novels’ themes dealt with loneliness, stoic marriages, and dispossession, themes inherited from the WWII years and her childhood and a decade that she spent in post War Paris, where she became a scholar of the culture of 18th- and 19th-century France. She passed away at 87. Brookner grew up in Herne Hill, the daughter of Polish Jewish tobacco importers who had immigrated to London. In 1967, she had become the first woman to hold the Slade professorship at Cambridge University. her first novel, A Start in Life, was published in 1981 and was about a childless middle-aged woman who visits Paris and outlives all the other members of her immigrant family. (Write about what you know… ) In 1990, she was appointed CBE by the Queen.
ANDY GROVE was paranoid, and used it to good success. He made INTEL a household name throughout the known world, mentored countless Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and taught business leaders how to use paranoia and creative confrontation to survive. His book was titled, “Only The Paranoid Survive.” Andrew S. Grove, 79, was born Andras Grof in Budapest in 1936, survived WWII by hiding with his mother and posing as Christians with a Christian family. His father survived a Nazi labor camp. The family survived the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, after which Grove fled over the border to Austria after some of his friends were arrested. He soon arrived in New York, nearly deaf, not knowing English, and penniless, but he was able to graduate from City University at the top of class with a chemical engineering degree in just a few years (he read lips during lectures). Grove is considered a father of Silicon Valley; a hard driving manager, he was no saint. Like many others in business, he made plenty of bad decisions, but many good ones. He recovered by being willing to recognize mistakes and change course. According to Harvard Business School Professor David B. Yoffie, a longtime Intel board member. Mr. Grove’s influence came from his ideas of non-hierarchical, low-partitioned cubicles and open seating. Walled in, insular offices were banished. A note on creative confrontation. At Intel, meetings were brief. Arguments were hot. It was more efficient for employees to get into shouting matches and solve problems quickly, and Grove was probably the loudest, angriest shouter (with his hearing aids off). Many years ago, some colleagues recommended I buy stock in Intel. I didn’t. Too bad. Shareholders saw their investments grow 40% a year for a period.
And then there was Meir – MEIR DAGAN, 71, a former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. In two of his agency’s most famous publicly known projects, Israel and the USA infected Iran’s nuclear program with its Stuxnet computer worm, and israel proved that Syria had been building a nuclear reactor. It was reportedly destroyed in an Israeli air raid in September 2007. After he left office, Dagan, along with retired military chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi and retired director of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, criticized the Netanyahu government for its idea to attack Iran and its nuclear program. Officially, Meir Dagan was born in January 1945 as Meir Hubermann in Ukraine. His picture of his murdered grandfather being abused by Nazis is now an iconic photo. His family moved to Israel in 1950, after WWII, and as an adult in 1967, Dagan served as a company commander in the Six Day War. He retired from the military in 1995 with the rank of major general (aluf), after which he joined the IDF’s general staff and served as a special adviser to the chief of staff, before leading the Mossad. Did the Nazi period effect his outlook? Dagan once said, “During all the years of my service, I carried with me from place to place the photograph of my grandfather taken a moment before he was murdered by the Nazis. I swore that that would never happen again. I hope and believe that I have done everything in my power to keep that promise.”
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